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I am having a hard time finding a netbook that I like. So far, the MSI Wind U100 got sent back due to its wonky touchpad and uncomfortable mouse button. Then the much-praised Samsung NC10 met the same fate , due to its painful-to-use one-piece mouse button.

My experience with both machines has made me swear to not order another netbook that has a one-piece mouse button. Whatever manufacturers may be saving by using one vs. two mouse buttons, it isn't worth it. The design simply makes clicking too uncomfortable for regular use. So this time, I decided to try a netbook with two proper mouse buttons: Lenovo's S10.

Lenovo S10

I ordered the "Large Capacity" version of the S10, mainly because I wanted the 1 GB of RAM. If I were smart, I would have ordered the "General Computing" version and spent $20 to upgrade its 512 MB of RAM to 1 GB. Although the "Large Capacity" version also doubles the "General Computing" model's 80 GB hard drive, I don't even need the 80 GB. Of course, a few days after I placed the order, Lenovo dropped the price on both models $50 to $349 and $399. Sighhhhhhh...

The unboxing was similar to my experience with the Samsung. The attractive product box set the stage and the S10 was safely wrapped and nestled between two foam support / end-caps and the power supply, battery and power cord were all in a separate compartment. Unlike the MSI and Samsung, however, the S10 doesn't come with a slipcase.

First boot was uneventful and XP Home installed without a problem. The resulting desktop (I removed the default desktop background) showed an icon for the bundled Cyberlink OneKey Recovery program.

Lenovo S10 desktop

Figure 1: Lenovo S10 desktop

Actually each boot after the initial installation automatically brought up an installation screen for the Norton Internet Security trial that is also bundled. The screen didn't offer a "No Thanks" or "Quit" option, so I had to open Task Manager and kill it each time until I tired of the game and uninstalled Norton.

Unlike the Samsung, the S10 has neither an online user manual nor Lenovo update program installed. The only other option under the Lenovo Start Menu folder besides the OneKey Recovery program is the Energy Management program (Figure 2).

Energy Management app

Figure 2: Energy Management app

The four settings adjust processor speed, display brightness and network adapters as summarized in Table 1. I tried to find a summary of these settings in the Energy Management help file, but it had an index, but no content for all items!

Mode CPU Display Network
Performance 1.6 GHz Full brightness Ethernet and WLAN enabled
Balance 1.6 GHz 75% Ethernet and WLAN enabled
Low Power 798 MHz 50% Ethernet and WLAN enabled
Super Energy Saver 798 MHz Lowest Ethernet and WLAN disabled
Table 1: Energy Management settings

I expanded some of the items in Device Manager so that you can see what the S10 is made of. My usual objects of interest, the WLAN and Ethernet interfaces, show Broadcom devices for the 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and 10/100 Ethernet port.

S10 Devices

Figure 3: S10 Devices

I was unpleasantly surprised, however, by the absence of a Bluetooth adapter. There seems to be some confusion on whether the S10 includes Bluetooth. Notebookreview's review says that it does. But various other posts (here, here) say that it doesn't.

My "Large Capacity" model most certainly does not include Bluetooth. And I can't see it on any of the models shown on the Lenovo site and it isn't a configurable option. So there's strike one for the S10. Sure, I could plug a BT dongle into a USB port. But both the MSI Wind and Samsung NC10 have built-in Bluetooth. And I will probably be using a BT mouse when I need to do a lot of writing on whatever machine I end up with. I don't want the hassle of plugging in / risk of losing a teeny, tiny BT dongle.

Figure 4 shows the S10 side-by-side with my "reference" travel notebook, a Fujitsu P7120. The S10's footprint is smaller than the Fujitsu's by about 3/4" in width and almost an inch in depth. If only Lenovo had made the S10 at least a bit wider they would not have had to cripple a good netbook with such a cramped keyboard. (I'll come back to this shortly.)

Fujitsu P7120 and Lenovo S10
Click to enlarge image

Figure 4: Fujitsu P7120 and Lenovo S10

Another disadvantage the S10 has vs. some of its competition is that is currently available in the U.S. with only a 3 cell Lithium Ion battery. While this results in a shorter run time than its 6 cell-powered competition, the 3 cell battery pack doesn't protrude from the rear at all. In fact, it forms the long center area between the two hinges, a nice design idea.

The S10's port complement differs slightly from other netbooks. It is the only product in its class that sports an ExpressCard slot, but sacrifices a third USB 2.0 port to provide it. You still get, however, a 4-in-1 memory card reader, 15 pin VGA port, 10/100 Ethernet port and mic and headphone jacks.

The power button is back near the hinge beside disk activity, num lock and caps lock lights. There are also buttons to enable/disable Wi-Fi and launch the OneKey recovery program. There are also three small indicators on the front left edge for power, battery charge and wireless activity.

I should mention that Lenovo makes it easy to change the hard drive and memory. All you need to do is remove one large panel on the bottom and both are fully exposed. If you want to see more of what the S10's innards look like there are good photos here.

In all, the build quality is excellent and it seems like the S10 would hold up well with everyday use.

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